Save as Much Money as Possible- or Not?


The past six years have been a financial roller coaster for us, and we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel (finally!).  When we moved to this state for my hubby to go to school, we incurred moving expenses.  Then I was the only one working while he went to school so our income was pretty low.  In addition, culinary school ended up costing over $36,000 so we took on student loans. After culinary school, we continued to live frugally to be able to pay down our consumer debt.  We ended up paying off that debt this year and it couldn’t feel better.

Fortunately, (or unfortunately) I’ve continued the mindset of OMG we need to save as much money as possible! and I’m getting tired of it.  Not to mention, I feel sometimes like it’s hindering my happiness.  Now, I know that money doesn’t buy happiness, but what I am saying is that maybe being a little less stingy with our money would result in more happiness.  I received a comment the other day that really struck home.

I like your blog but there is one down side that has made me tune out a lot; you seem to very often put money waaaay before happiness. I get the importance of being financially responsible but I think IMHO that you often cheat yourself just to save. I’d rather have sufficient and modest savings but live happily and in sync with my values than maximize my money but sacrifice a lot of what makes me happy. just my opinion.

First off, I’m glad that the person actually said this.  I don’t think that I would have had the guts to post this because I’d be worried I would offend someone.  Truth be told, this is one of the best comments I’ve ever received.  I think there’s a lot of truth to it, and I’m going to do my best to focus more on being happy than worrying about money.

Over the years I’ve worried a lot about money.  We had debt, we needed to save for this, we need more money to pay this, etc.  Money is stressful!  Now we’re debt free, focusing on new goals (which can also be stressful), and I want to really enjoy life more.  We are not bound by debt (except for our mortgage) any more.  I want to continue to live frugally but not miserly.

One of the things that really stresses me out about budgeting is eating out.  We really enjoy eating out and as much as I try to cook at home all the time to save money, Mr. Money isn’t happy unless he can eat out.  Maybe I need to compromise and plan for one meal out a week so that way we are both happy.  Instead of looking at it like “we’re wasting money eating out and it could have cost me so much less money if we ate at home”, I need to look at it like I am blessing my husband and we are using our money wisely because this is something we both enjoy.

Obviously, budgeting is a huge struggle for me.  I don’t know how to tackle this.  I’m thinking about two solutions.

1. Make a budget with all of our bills that have to be paid (but not things like groceries) and include some savings goals in it.  After all the bills are paid, don’t worry about how much money we spend.  It’s not in our nature to go overboard, so our spending would be reasonable.

2. Make a budget and include the things like eating out.  Give us a set amount of money each month to spend on restaurants and fun things.  This option seems more stressful because I’d feel restricted.  Is that a good thing though?

I guess my main focus with our finances now is to start enjoying life a little more and stop acting like we’re dirt poor.  I don’t want to be 70 years old with a million dollars in the bank and wish that I had spent more time doing things that would have cost me a little money.  It’s all about balance.

Do you struggle with spending money? Or do you struggle with saving money? Which do you think is worse?

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15 thoughts on “Save as Much Money as Possible- or Not?

  1. Karen says:

    When we first decided to become frugal, I went through the same struggle. It’s so hard to balance. Money in the bank DOES make me happy, but I do think it’s important to spend a little on things that bring you joy.

    I think the MOST important thing is to make sure you’re mindful about your spending. Too many people spend money on things that don’t matter that much to them just because it’s more convenient. For example, don’t go out to eat just because you don’t feel like cooking. Choose restaurants carefully and try to enjoy the restaurants you choose to the fullest. It’s the difference between eating at a really nice place once a week or blowing hundreds or dollars a month on fast food and chain restaurants just because it’s easier than cooking.

    Save money when you can on the things that aren’t as important to you, and you’ll be able to afford the things that are. And don’t let people give you crap about it on your blog. I took so much crap for taking our trip to Europe even though we still have student loan debt, but it turned out that I was already pregnant when we went. There’s no way we’d be able to take that trip now for the next decade at least. Sometimes you’ve got to just do it now instead of waiting your whole life for everything to be perfect.


  2. Robyn @ Frugal 'n' Fit! says:

    I totally struggle with the same issues. I have a nice amount of savings which brings me a lot of pride and security, but in order to have these savings, how many experiences have I forfeited that would have brought me happiness? This is what keeps me up at night! 😉

    I like your idea about working the once-a-week restaurant excursions into your budget so you don’t feel guilty about them. If they bring your family that much pleasure, then they are definitely worth it!


  3. kimberly says:

    I do feel the same struggle – and I ended up going with your idea about having a budget with everything that needs to get paid, adding reasonable-to-aggressive savings goals, and then not worrying so much about which category I am spending in or having “extra” left over to save. I have found that it all seems to even out, and some months I have zero extra but some I have a little more I can save. I keep a pretty good mental ideal of what I’m spending, so in a given month if I know I have been eating out I tend to not to spend too much on other little indulgences.


  4. Jenny says:

    While I agree with that person’s comment to an extent, I think it totally depends on your financial situation. Where you are now, sure. Spend a little. But if someone is thinking that way and racking up credit card debt or going through life with $0 savings in order to not sacrifice what makes them happy, I don’t think that’s good at all. I know people who have gotten into big trouble doing that, and in the end it makes people miserable.

    We are not yet at the point where we feel we can really let go and splurge a little. We’d love to go on a vacation, for instance, but when we get our tax return in a couple of months, that doesn’t even make the top five list of priorities. We have to pay our midwife, and then we reallllly need to work on our emergency savings, and start saving to pay cash for our next van. I wouldn’t want to go to Disney World or anywhere knowing all the while that we can’t sensibly afford it.

    However, if I were you I’d definitely go out to eat every once in a while. That’s something that practically never happens now that we have kids, so in a way I’m glad we enjoyed going out a lot more before we had them–even though it did cost us a lot more than cooking at home. I will always treasure the relaxed conversations and Chocolate Tallcake…


  5. Mrs. Accountability says:

    OH yeah. I know two people who lived like this. One, my Grandma, who I actually admire for being so frugal, and compare myself to, and berate myself for not being more frugal (stingy). The other was one of my good friends’ mother. She was ALWAYS crying poor mouth and when she died her husband was able to pay CASH for my friend’s condominium which cost over $100,000. And there is a ton more money. My friend’s mother lived like a poor person and was always counting pennies (like my Grandma, every time I count out change I think of my Grandma). I feel guilty for spending any money and when I do impulsively buy something I’m annoyed with myself. I’ve wanted a Kindle for three years and finally over the weekend bought one for myself. I’m so excited for it to arrive. I even impulsively bought a waterproof case for it, instead of resorting to using a plastic ziploc bag. On the other hand, we are still working on paying down our debt, so then I berate myself for being so foolish and spending $200 on things that could have gone toward paying off debt because they are clearly a want vs. a need. Here’s the thing though… I have been printing out lots of ebooks so I think in the long run I’ll break even for the savings on paper and ink. And I’m saving some trees, right? 😉


  6. Maggie says:

    My story in a nutshell, My husband often spends money to conpensate for miserbale teen years. I like to save money. Once I got out of of the credit card debt he came ot the marriage, he went back to school. Then he got out, got a good job and did not pay close attention to his eating out and did not concentrate on pyaing down the little bit of credit card debt we acquired while he was in school full time and he esentailly doubled the debt in spite of my warnings, pleading, etc. Finally, when it was time to enroll our oldest into parochial school he allowed me to take ove the management of most of his income and the bills again.

    But a great pleasure in Hubby’s life is eating out. I could not enforce a budget until I allocated one meal out a week. I budgeted enough for a Sunday morning breakfast. Any meal costing more than that was supplemented by someone’s pocket money. That’s what worked for us.


  7. Mike says:

    I agree balance is important, but as someone who has lost his income unexpectedly, I can tell you that having money set aside and no bills looming makes me a lot happier than some of the other people that were laid off as well.


  8. Shannon says:

    I totally agree that there should be a budget for eating out (one of my favorite indulgences!) I think too many times people look at a budget as some sort of restriction. I like to think of it as “money assignments”. I know that my money has a mind of it’s own and that if I don’t give it certain assignments, it will take off and go where it wants to -not where I need it to :o)


  9. Chris says:

    I think this is the perfect opportunity for you to start saving for a dream vacation or for several weekend getaways at least. Eating out weekly is nice but in a few weeks, are you even going to remember much about what you ate or where? A vacation is something both you & your husband will enjoy and provide you years of fond memories. I too used to be pretty miserly, didn’t take a BIG vacation for about 10 years. After my youngest daughter passed away from cancer last year – I’ve realized life is too short to worry that much about money. It’s meant to be enjoyed. So from now on – it’s a big vacation every 2 years. This past summer – took my other daughter to Thailand for several weeks. Next December – we’re going to the Philippines.


  10. Ramona says:

    The entire world is in a HUGE predicament because we all put happiness before anything. A new TV made us happy, the new car, a nice vacation, a house we cannot afford. We max our credit cards and just look for happiness.

    That’s not OK either.

    I’d rather stop and really focus on some stuff that makes me happy and be more careful with the money. As an example: holidays are approaching. We’ll spend a “no tree, no presents” Christmas. We’ll spend the New Year’s Eve at home, eating good meals, but not splashing on these holidays. Why? Because we’ll leave the country in March for 6 months in the USA. That’s a HUGE DEAL for us. So, we “sacrifice” these holidays for being very happy next year.

    I do have to pay for my car, but I don’t have ANY debt aside that. We eat well, even if we don’t have fancy meals. They’re good, fresh and healthy. We buy clothing when it’s a sale, we don’t dine at a restaurant, we don’t waste money.

    Are we not happy? Well, let me know we are. As long as we’re balanced in our quest for financial security and happiness, I think we’re OK.


  11. Jessica07 says:

    This post reminded me a lot of something I heard about restrictive dieting: What’s the point of living forever, if you have to be miserable every day to do it? There has to be a happy medium in there somewhere… 😉


  12. Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer says:

    Balance is important and I’m glad you’re looking at adding that to your budget.

    We have line items for both for eating out and entertainment in our monthly budget. We don’t always use it, but if we decide to go to the movies or out to the theatre, it’s not a budget-breaker; it’s planned!

    P.S. We always use the eating out money; it’s something we both enjoy a lot.


  13. Heather says:

    We don’t categorize our budget. We picked a set amount for each week and take out cash on Sundays, when we go grocery shopping. After that, the cash can be spent on whatever, but when it runs out, that’s all we have for the week. Sometimes we’ll go out a bunch, sometimes we need new clothes, sometimes it all goes to copays or oil changes or other not fun things. It’s worked well.


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